Killed S.F. Mayor, Supervisor in ’78 : Parole Ends; White Now Free to Leave L.A. County

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Times Staff Writer

Dan White, who killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978, completed his parole Sunday in the San Fernando Valley, where he has lived a secretive, solitary existence since his release from prison a year ago.

White, 38, who served five years for the slayings, may now live where he wishes and is not obligated to report his movements to authorities. Robert J. Gore, assistant director of the California Department of Corrections, said White has not informed authorities of his plans and it is not known whether he left the Valley when his parole ended at 12:01 a.m.

San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein sent White a message through the Department of Corrections, warning him that he would jeopardize public safety and risk his own life if he returned to San Francisco.


But San Francisco’s preoccupation with White is fading. When he was released from prison last January, 9,000 San Franciscans took to the streets in protest. On Sunday, residents, including both friends of White and his victims, said they were more interested in the fortunes of the 49ers football team than in White’s movements.

On Friday evening, White met with his parole officer for the last time and, according to Gore, expressed relief that his parole was over but did not discuss his future.

According to Gore, White said only: “I’m not going to do anything stupid.”

While on parole, White left Los Angeles County three times: twice for two-day trips to Disneyland with his family and once for 12 days in Lake Tahoe.

Law enforcement sources said that during his parole, White changed his appearance, either by growing a beard or wearing disguises, and lived under an assumed name. He jogged often for exercise and spent much of his time alone in his apartment.

Sources of Income

He did not work outside his home for fear of being recognized. Before his 1977 election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, White had been a police officer and a firefighter. He owns a business in San Francisco, his wife works as a teacher and a family support fund was set up by sympathizers shortly after his arrest.

During his stay in Los Angeles County, White received visitors from San Francisco, including his wife and children. Last month, he reportedly became the father of a third child, Laura. His second child, Rory, 3, conceived during a conjugal visit while White was in Soledad State Prison, was born with Down’s Syndrome. White’s first child, Charlie, 6, was an infant at the time of the killings.


Not Welcome in S.F.

San Francisco city officials say they have been unable to learn where White is headed although they believe he will not return to the Bay Area, “at least not in the near future,” and is considering selling the family business, a fast-food stand specializing in baked potatoes and french fries.

“As far as we know, he has not made any firm plans yet,” said an official involved in San Francisco law enforcement.

But rumors that White intends to return to San Francisco have disturbed residents and officials there. The San Francisco Chronicle has urged him in editorials to stay away. Shortly before his release from Soledad, White asked to be permitted to serve his parole in San Francisco. His request was denied.

“This community does not need to have him continually scratching at the scars,” said Corey Busch, a former Moscone aide and a close friend of the slain mayor’s family. “His presence here would be inciting.”

White has never publicly expressed remorse for the Nov. 27, 1978, killings. He shot Moscone four times, twice in the head, and Milk five times, twice in the head, in their City Hall offices with a concealed revolver. White avoided a metal detector in the City Hall lobby by slipping in through a basement window.

Shortly before the killings, White had resigned his Board of Supervisors seat because of financial difficulties and then tried to regain it. Moscone, more liberal politically than White, had accepted the resignation and refused to reappoint him. Milk, the city’s first openly gay supervisor, also opposed reappointment.


Basis of Defense

During his trial, White was portrayed by the defense as unable to control himself because he was distraught over his finances, fatigued from lack of sleep and worry and suffered ill effects from eating large amounts of junk food. That became widely known as the “Twinkie defense.”

He was charged with first-degree murder but the jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. On the night the verdict was returned, residents angered over the relatively lenient judgment attacked City Hall and torched police cars.

In San Francisco, the news media have chronicled White’s activities since the assassinations, from what he ate in prison to the pregnancies of his wife, Mary Ann, 42. Books, plays and a movie have retraced the killings. White’s release from prison a year ago was covered as a major story.

But despite the public’s fascination and interest in the case, White managed to keep his whereabouts in Southern California secret. Gore said White’s contacts with state authorities were “perfunctory” and White “never gave away anything personal” during meetings and telephone conversations with his parole officer.

The Department of Corrections received a threat against White’s life during the last month and White was informed of it, Gore said. He refused to elaborate on the threat, saying only that the department “took it seriously” but nothing came of it.

Keeping a Low Profile

“It’s a big place and he’s a nondescript person,” Gore said. “We know he stayed in a lot and kept as low a profile as possible.”


Neither White nor his wife ever has agreed to an interview with reporters. Gore said he does not know if White is writing a book about the killings and his prison experience.

“We don’t really know,” Gore said. “Just because he might have a typewriter in his apartment does not mean that he is writing a book.”

Gore said White never entered the Bay Area during his year of parole and maintained telephone contact with his parole officer during his three trips out of Los Angeles County.

Former Moscone aide Busch, now executive vice president of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, said he is looking forward to the day when White’s name no longer is mentioned.

‘We Can’t Change It’

“From my standpoint,” said Busch, “it’s time to quit dwelling on that one day in November when George was murdered. . . . We can’t change it. White’s going to walk free and I don’t really care. I don’t spend my time thinking about him. He’s not worth it.”

Gay activists who were the most vocal in their anger and bitterness toward White now respond to questions about him by changing the subject to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), an illness that has become widespread among members of San Francisco’s gay community.


Scott Smith, Milk’s former lover, said the gay community did not consider planning any demonstration or protest to coincide with the end of White’s parole.

“A group of us got together the other night and were trying to decide why nothing, no protest, was being planned to coincide with the end of his parole,” Smith said. “The reason is that the community’s anger and frustration now is about losing our lovers and our friends, right and left, to the AIDS epidemic and that’s more important than paying attention to a pathetic little man like Dan White.”

Smith said his anger has not evaporated but he avoids thinking about the killer of his lover. San Franciscans still remember Moscone and Milk in a march and candlelight vigil on the anniversaries of their deaths.

“I lost a man that I love,” Smith said. “But White’s paid his debt to society under our system of government. I don’t have time to think about him.”